Overwatch League opened up new innovations in esports for the viewer experience. From having regional-based teams to an arena that similarly resembles being in a traditional sports game, OWL continues to push the bar in esports. Fans from all around the world from China to South Korea to France converge together to watch OWL. Then, there are fans who have supported OWL since Day 1. These fans cheer for their favorite teams and players throughout the past two years at the Blizzard Arena, creating signs and buying jerseys. Inven Global met with OWL superfans Hannah Cho, Danielle George, and Krista Vetter during Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend to talk about how they became huge fans of OWL, what it means to be a fan, the positives and negatives, and how you can be involved as a fan.
The Making of a Superfan
For Danielle, Hannah, and Krista, they became OWL fans as soon as they stepped inside the Blizzard Arena. The lights, sounds, and screens gravitated these three fans to a team as soon as they saw players hit the stage.
Danielle: “I root for Houston, since I’m originally from Houston. Then, there’s Dallas because all of my friends like them so I slowly migrated to them. And, I like the Valiant because when I came to the Blizzard Arena for the first time and watched them play, it was hyped!”
Hannah: “I’m Korean so I have to support my boys! I made a lot of friends at the arena and they all like different teams so I just accompanied them to a lot of the games. I just liked a lot of teams in the end.”
Krista: “I’m a NYXL fan! I’m not from New York, but last year, I was trying to pick a team and I didn’t want to pick any frontrunners. Before Season 1 started, there were EnVyUs and Lunatic-Hai who were top teams. I watched APEX and World Cup so I loved watching Saebyeolbe and his streams. I also watched ArK’s streams and loved his positivity. When Pine started popping off, I became a huge Pine fan.”
What Being a Superfan Means
The continued growth of OWL made Danielle, Hannah, and Krista’s hearts grow fonder for the teams and players. As soon as they realized it, they continued to attend the arena in most weeks, becoming friends with not only each other, also people who share a similar sentiment as they do.
Danielle: “I kind of just got adopted into it. I made friends with Reba, who is a Houston Outlaws fan and also met Jess who is a Vancouver fan. I went to the arena and ended up finding people who are really kind and loving. They love the game as much as I do.”
Hannah: “I don’t know if I could be considered a superfan because I don’t go to a lot of games since I don’t have a lot of money for it. We’re not paid fans! I wish I was paid! I don’t know how people labeled that term but I think I was passionate enough to go to games when I could and met a lot of friends who supported me. I naturally migrated into this group of great friends who share the same love as I do about Overwatch League.”
Krista: “Before Season 1 started, I was so camera shy and had social anxiety. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I would hang around and sit in different spots for the first few stages. I bought a season ticket and I remember Serena, who is an Outlaws fan, told me to sit in the front row. I also bought every player’s jersey from NYXL and tweeted it. Then, NYXL retweeted and it blew up. Now people know me for getting those jerseys. I go to all the games and love it!"
Combating Criticism from Others
Being an OWL superfan has its positives, but also carries negativity from the community. The term, “paid fan”, was coined during the inaugural season. In general, it means fans who attended every week at the Blizzard Arena. The “paid fans” show their dedication every week but also deal with criticism from social media because of their enthusiasm and dedication.
They commented on dealing with critics:
Danielle: “If it’s a simple comment, I just reply that I like my teams. Whenever a comment is mean and derogatory, then I just won’t interact.
So far, I’ve been honored to be a fan. I know I’m not here often, but I’m happy to support my team when I’m here.”
Hannah: “I don’t look at Reddit, Twitch chat, or my DM’s. A lot of people send me Reddit posts about me. I don’t ever want to see any hate about me. I feel like this happens ever so often, you get desensitized after a while.
I’m really proud to be a fan. I’m able to support my team. It’s a unique experience that normally you cannot get in other sports. It’s also a close-knit community. All the fans who are in the arena support each other. It’s been a great time!”
Krista: “It’s hard. Like I said, I have social anxiety so when people directly target me, I try to avoid it. I would freak out if I saw negative comments. I love OWL and this has been the greatest years of my life. I made the most friends in my life because of this. It took this long to find friends who share something like this with me and it sucks that some people try to ruin it.”
Encouraging Others to Come Out for Support
Being an esports fan is different from being a traditional sports fan. For one, it’s difficult to come out to support your favorite teams if there are no events around your region. Additionally, there might be a voice in your head saying you should not go alone, and what if it’s weird to attend by yourself?
You are not alone in thinking that way. However, if you do show up, there are people who share the same devotion to esports as you. Don’t be shy. Go out, cheer loud, and support your favorite players and teams. Danielle, Hannah, and Krista have encouraging words for the shy fans who are on the fence about coming out to go to an esports event.
Danielle: “There’s actually a Dallas fan named Justin. He’s young and from Dallas. He went to one game. He painted his face blue, wore a giant cowboy hat, and now everyone knows him. Even if you’re far away and you have one opportunity to go, go hard, be passionate, and be confident. Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not. Have fun and you’ll find people.”
Hannah: “I started watching Overwatch League because a friend wanted me to take screenshots of Ryujehong for her. I’ve played Overwatch before and just started watching more and more. My friends bought me a jersey for my birthday and I went to the arena by myself. It was amazing and I kept going. Just take that first step. We’re not going to bite. We’re all that same awkward individual.”
Krista: “For me because of the anxiety, I was scared to go by myself to the arena. Then, I went. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. You should just go. I guarantee you’ll make at least 5 friends.”
Overwatch League fans all around the world will have the opportunity to experience what these three fans experience at the Blizzard Arena for the past two seasons. If you have not experienced an esports event before, next season is the time to do it. Blizzard and the Overwatch League opened the doors for new fans. Next season is the time to experience what esports can offer.
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